In the movie The Sound of Music, there is a scene in which nuns musically lament the character of their fellow nun Maria, played by Julie Andrews. “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” they ask. They call her a flibbertigibbet, a darling, a demon and a lamb, among other things. It’s not my favorite song in the movie, but having said that, there are many times when I look down at Téa’s sassy little face after she’s done something that ranges from mildly annoying to downright blood pressure raising…and I realize that the Maria song is what is going through my head.
Téa was meant to be a temporary addition to our family, an opportunity to help a dog who needed help and a means of distracting Toni from her neuroses for a while. We specifically discussed a small dog (with just 1,000 square feet of city living for two humans and one human-sized dog—we really meant it when we said no more big dogs). We swore up and down that we were absolutely. not. under any circumstances. considering this newcomer as anything other than temporary. We were certain that we would not become smitten with a small dog anyway, so we weren’t very concerned.
Téa is also 100 percent excited about the things she does not like. Obviously this is not as endearing a quality as some of her others. It turns out there are many things she does not like. She does not like to wait for anyone who walks slower than the speed of light and used to do her best to bring us up to speed when we first brought her home. She does not like squirrels. She expresses this via a strange, primal, unworldly noise that can be heard for blocks. A friend heard it once and later told us she had thought that a cat had caught a rabbit and was torturing it to death. Téa is absolutely disapproving of small dogs—make that small dogs and fluffy dogs. If you are unfortunate enough to be a small, fluffy dog, she cannot even recognize you as a fellow canine. We think she might just consider you a squirrel whose hairline hasn’t receded to its tail yet. She also doesn’t like dogs who stare at her, who bark at her, who bark at anything around her, who seem to be having more fun in the park than she is, who are interested in whatever kind of fun she is having…you get the idea. For a while, when she could not rid the world of these supposed vermin (also known as other people’s cherished family pets), she would do what any unruly, immature child would do—she lashed out at the closest thing she could reach. And like a three-year-old who hits her sister because she can’t have an ice cream, she would turn her fury on Toni, who was really just trying to have another sniff at the bush we were passing. Toni did her best to be tolerant, but one can really only take so much unjustified abuse before one decides to defend oneself. I’ll just remind you that Toni is about 25 pounds heavier than Téa and a good several inches taller; you can figure out how things were finally sorted out and Téa learned to control her temper. This is part of why Toni and Téa work so well together as a pack—Toni’s maternal instincts outweigh her neuroses and meet Téa’s need for some good old fashioned mothering.
At this moment, Toni lies sleeping with her face jammed up against the back of the couch—if she can’t see the scary world, maybe it can’t see her either. Téa has her face jammed up against Toni’s (substantial) rear end, alternately snoring and making the little satisfied sighs of contentment that we’ve come to love.